So who can remember what they were doing/thinking about all the way back in August? I’m sure most of you weren’t thinking about Christmas… but for us here at Experience Days it was all we had on our minds as we began researching ideas for our Christmas event.
After a month of brain storming, and deciding that we wanted to host a charity event, we finally decided to attempt a World Record. And what better record to represent our gift voucher company and tie in with Christmas than the record for ‘the most people simultaneously gift wrapping’.
As you might imagine, a lot goes into becoming world record holders – after all it’s about achieving something that has only happened once in the world! So we’ve put together this blog for you guys to have a read through, to find out exactly what goes into planning a World Record Christmas event.
As three Bournemouth University students on placement here at Experience Days, we were all very excited to be involved with such a big charity event. We began planning a few months back, beginning with the search for a venue, charity, toy company for donations and, of course, participants!
We wanted to find a charity to work with that we could really try and help at Christmas time. We immediately thought of children’s charities… what if we could give 400 children a present this Christmas who otherwise might have gone without? As a gift company, we all thought this would be a good idea.
Barnardo’s were the first charity we thought of. Their centres do such great work supporting local families, we thought they would love to receive gifts around Christmas time. Thankfully when we phoned they were delighted to be chosen, so the first stage of preparations was complete.
Next came securing a toy company that would be willing to donate 400 gifts for a charity event. We were somewhat worried that this might be a bit of a stretch, but Mattel, the toy giant behind Barbie and Hot Wheels, very kindly agreed to donate all the gifts we needed for the attempt to go ahead! They played a huge part in the success of this world record attempt, and we are so grateful for their involvement.
Next on the agenda was finding somewhere that would fit 400 people seated with enough space and table area to wrap a gift. This turned out to be a slightly trickier than we had first anticipated… no where we looked seemed to be big enough! So we decided to return to our roots and get Bournemouth University involved.
VISITING THE VENUE:
Visiting Bournemouth was great. With the help of Emma Matthews and Emily King, plans for promoting the attempt and getting the students involved were coming together. But still, we had the issue of finding a venue.
Where could we fit this amount of people, that would also be easily accessible on a Friday night? The obvious choice was the ever popular student club, The Old Firestation. Based in Lansdowne, the venue is renowned for holding over 800 students on club nights, so we were pretty sure this would be the one. We went along to meet with venue manager Alan Dove. As he showed us the space, it quickly dawned on us that a nightclub with capacity of 800 was not going to be big enough. Sure, this venue was ideal for 800 people dancing within millimetres of each other, however, for 400 seated wrappers – it was not.
However, Alan had another trick up his sleeve and he put us in touch with Citygate Church. This venue is often used by BU to seat 1000 exam students, and it’s a vibrant church that has up to 500 in its Sunday congregation. Throwing caution to the wind, we took our chances and walked the short distance from the Firestation to Citygate, in hope that someone would be willing to show us round.
We were lucky enough to meet Eliot, the venue manager. After showing us the space, we immediately knew this was the one. The venue is a huge hall with a stage, lighting, enough chairs for 500 and it would even be decorated for Christmas by the 4th of December! After a quick diary check, we had secured Citygate as the offical venue for The Big Gift Wrap. It was a huge relief and we can’t thank everyone at Citygate enough.
In the lead up to Christmas we all know the Post Office gets very busy, however they were probably a little curious as to why we were having around 6 parcels shipped to our office everyday! Granted we may have got a little carried away, but when it comes to planning a Christmas wrapping record event, one can never be too prepared. Of course we were going to need 800 festive bows for the 400 presents, that’s not excessive, right?
As more and more stock arrived at our office, including projectors, screens, wrapping materials, sticky tape and hundreds of Christmas hats, it began to look like we were building our very own grotto! Christmas had most definitely come early!
You can only imagine our excitement when we heard through the intercom that two palates had been delivered, that’s right two whole palates of toys! As we were loading the toys into the lift you could see how excited we all were, it felt like Christmas morning and we were about 10 years old again!
Once we had all the toys up to the 5th floor (of course our office would be the one at the top of the building), we began to open up the boxes to see what goodies were hidden inside.
We couldn’t believe our eyes when the first toy we pulled out was Woody from Toy Story, next came Cinderella and her carriage – the gifts were absolutely fantastic, Mattel had definitely pulled out all the stops and we can’t thank them enough! With a collection of 400 fantastic Disney Pixar toys, we knew there would be smiles on all the children’s faces come Christmas day.
When it came to promotion of the event we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, especially considering our offices are based in Brighton and we were hosting the event in Bournemouth, it’s a good job we’re all fans of road trips!
Luckily we had members of Bournemouth University RAG (Raising and Giving) society helping us out, as we couldn’t have done it without them. They arranged for us to come down to the University on three separate occasions and set up a stall to promote the event. All we needed now was to design the leaflets, get thousands printed, and hit the road.
On each of the promotional days we had members from RAG as well as members from Barnardo’s come and join us to help advertise the event. They were all fantastic, and we would especially like to thank Barnardo’s as they were able to provide more information about the charity itself and all the fantastic work they do to help the children, which we feel really helped to grab people’s attention.
Over the three days we managed to get over 300 sign ups – so we were feeling hopeful.
Whilst we were at the university we also arranged an interview with Lauren from Nerve Radio, which was to be broadcast to all of the students to further our reach. We’re so glad Lauren was able to get involved with the event and we would like to thank her for her support.
Once we returned to Brighton, despite feeling like the promotional days had gone really well, we felt like we still needed to do more to make sure we had 400 attendees on the day, so we decided to open the event up to the general public.
First stop the Bournemouth Echo – what better way to capture peoples attention than by placing a full page ad slap bang in the middle of the Sunday paper? So that’s exactly what we did!
We also sent one of the team back down to Bournemouth to leaflet around the town, to try and get the word out as much as possible.
Participants were the key to breaking the record, so we had to make sure we focused as much of our attention on getting sign ups as possible.
Next came hiring the staff, sounds simple enough doesn’t it? But when you’re attempting to hold a World record event, nothing is simple. In order to adhere to the record guidelines we needed to source two professional time keepers, two independent witnesses and eight stewards, all of which had to have no connection to ourselves or the event – this was going to be tricky!
A hundred calls down the line and a well deserved McDonald’s break later, we had finally managed to secure not just two but five independent witnesses, as well as all the stewards and our time keepers!
We would like to thank Intouch Accounting, Dorset Police Department, Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, and everyone else that came out to help us, we couldn’t have done it without you all!
As the big day was drawing closer, there was only a few things left to do, though we most definitely hadn’t left the small tasks last. The most important item on the agenda was to cut all the wrapping paper and ribbon to size, though with 400 to cut this wasn’t going to be a quick task so we decided to turn half of the office into a factory for the day, well, more of an elf workshop, and of course no Christmas workshop is complete without a tree and festive tunes, so we had to do some decorating first.
Once we were feeling festive enough we put on our Christmas hats and got to work! I’ve always loved wrapping presents, though after having had to cut 400 pieces of paper each to size it’s fair to say we were rather glad that we weren’t allowed to take part in the actual wrapping ourselves, though at least we know we would have been pros!
Next on the agenda came the mammoth task of loading the van, luckily it was a quiet day in the office so everyone was able to help out.
The only thing now left to do was hit the road, get to Bournemouth, and get an early night ahead of the big day!
The day had finally arrived and it was going to be a long one, first stop; a quick dash to the local radio station for a spot on the breakfast show.
Tom and Laura, two lovely representatives of Bournemouth University’s Raising and Giving (RAG) and Volunteering Societies, had offered to take part in the interview. But this was no ordinary Radio show where a simple chat would suffice, Tom was to go head to head with the presenter in a wrap-off!
Following the radio show, we made our way to Citygate Centre to begin the immense task of unloading and unpacking 400 toys. With toys and boxes everywhere, it was like a scene from Santa’s grotto!
Setting out tables and chairs for 400 people took some strength and organisational skills, and with only a few hours before the doors would be thrown open to the excitable public, time was of the essence.
By 4 o’clock everything had come together, and with each of the 400 wrapping stations equipped with a present, wrapping paper, bow, and Santa hat, it was time to begin.
All that was left was to prep all the fantastic stewards, time keepers and witnesses on their very important roles, set up the cameras, invite everyone in, and let the magic unfold!
As the individuals were shown to their seats and the room began to fill, the atmosphere was amazing. The event really had brought people of all ages together in Christmas spirit.
“Are you ready to WRAP? I can’t hear you, ARE YOU READY TO WRAP?!?! 3..2..1…WRAP!!!”
Steve Harris (BBC Radio Presenter) announced to the hall of eager volunteers, as they all set about quickly wrapping the present in front of them, resembling a scene of Santa’s elves preparing gifts in his workshop.
As we stood up on the stage observing the festive scenario unfolding beneath, the sense of achievement was overwhelming as we could see that all our hard work had paid off and everyone was actually enjoying themselves!
With 6 seconds to spare the final ribbon was tied, the last Christmas hat was placed on the participants head, the clock was stopped and it was over. Now the only question that remained was; had the World Record been beaten?!
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to break the record, as we didn’t quite get enough wrappers, nonetheless we all still felt that the event was a huge success, and felt very honoured to be able to donate all 400 toys to Barnardo’s just in time for Christmas!
Carole Banton from Barnardo’s Children’s charity said: “Despite not breaking the record, it didn’t matter as the event was still brilliant.”
She added “Children and families in Bournemouth are going to really benefit from all this fantastic goodwill. Some of the children and families we work with are really struggling financially, especially at this time of year. We’re really thrilled.”
Knowing the achievement that day was all for a good cause couldn’t have been more rewarding, and we’re sure everyone that took part thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
We are so delighted to be able to help support Barnardo’s this Christmas, and we hope that all those that receive a gift have a very Merry Christmas.
And so there you have it, the process of planning a Christmas World record event from start to finish!
We’re hoping to re-attempt the record again next Christmas, and this time with more knowledge and experience we’re sure we can break it! A big thanks again to all the staff that helped us on the day, and of course all the wrappers that came and took part! We hope to see you all again next year!
Until then have a very merry Christmas! – From the team at Experience Days